While there may be individual continuing Anglican Catholics (AC) who would object to the content of this teaching for similar reasons to the Eastern Orthodox (EO) and earlier AC divines such as Pusey, especially because of its precarious-looking status in terms of the Vincentian Canon, it is in our authorised Missals, and so counts as part of the Tradition.
The reaction against it in both AC and EO circles has been partly based on its elevation to dogmatic status. To say it is divinely revealed in the same sense the Trinity and Resurrection doctrines are divinely revealed is simply false. A teaching that is revealed only in the most indirect and implicit fashion and is long either unknown or disputed, is obviously not a good candidate for dogma, even if the community of Faith becomes morally certain of its truth. This was precisely the objection of many Roman Catholic (RC) bishops when the Pope asked for their advice before defining the Immaculate Conception (IC) as dogma.
Another element in both AC and EO objections to RC Marian devotion in general is that it can tend very easily to lose its Christocentricity and teeter towards idolatry. For example, EO icons of Our Lady almost never picture her on her own, but in company with her Son. This is not so in Western art. As another example, and one that many Anglicans have found particularly galling, we had statements in popular RC devotional literature of the past that talked of Mary “commanding” her Son and of being the neck in Christ’s Body, so that all flowing from the Head, Christ himself, must flow through her as an intermediary. Wherever excesses and imbalances still exist, at least some of Pusey’s criticisms would still be valid. What would present-day RCs think if they read a passage like this below in a living RC theologian or heard it preached from the pulpit?
“There is some portion of the Precious Blood which once was Mary’s own blood, and which remains still in our Blessed Lord, incredibly exalted by its union with His Divine Person, yet still the same. This portion of Himself, it is piously believed, has not been allowed to undergo the usual changes of human substance. At this moment, in heaven, He retains something which was once His Mother’s, and which is, possibly, visible, as such, to the saints and angels. He vouchsafed at mass to show to S. Ignatius the very part of the Host which had once belonged to the substance of Mary.”
One of the most famous ACs of the Nineteenth Century, Pusey, believed that the IC dogma was going to lead to further dogmatisation, including of opinions such as those above. He seemed to think that the IC was only the start of an irrepressible urge to magnify Mary with virtually no limits except nominal denials of ascribing full-blown latreia to her. Fortunately, he was wrong. The RCC has, since then, tried to ensure popular exaggerations and devotional imbalances that distract from the Christ and the Gospel are kept in check much more than it used to. A welcome “development”.
However, Pusey was not infallible, and never claimed to be. The very fact that the English Calender maintained the Feast of the Conception as a black letter day even after the Reformation was considered significant by ACs. The BCP Preface to the Sanctus in the Canon for Christmas has the suggestive statement “Jesus … was made very man of the substance of the Virgin Mary his mother; and that without spot of sin”. These factors, and theological arguments of men like the great Anglican Neo-Thomist Fr Eric Mascall have all had their impact. The repeated description of Mary as Immaculate and All-Holy in the Ecumenical Councils was also determinitive: entirely without sin must mean what it says. So we have developed too.
The objection of many EO and some ACs in the past that the doctrine assumes the Augustinian doctrine of Original Guilt is not a problem once one realises it can be expressed without reference to this Western peculiarity. The key is to think positively rather than negatively and see the IC as the infusion of “sanctifying grace” simultaneous to her life beginning, or better still, as the immediate presence and power of God to save and sanctify doing so ab initio. Indeed, it was Mascall I think who noted that the IC simply involved God granting Mary the benefits of grace at her conception that we receive at baptism. The difference is that this meant sin and concupiscence were never able to find a place in her, whereas the implanting of a new nature continues to have "competition" from the pre-existing "old man" in us after baptism.
To sum up, the ecumenically Catholic belief in our Lady’s immaculacy implies, if taken seriously, a belief she was tainted by no sin or stain at all. This would include Original Sin. In addition, the suitability of Mary to be Christ’s mother must rest on what she is, not just on what she had or had not done. Her unique success in not committing any sin at all must be understood as resting on a unique condition, otherwise we risk falling into Pelagianism. Even if we do not accept the full Augustinian paradigm in soteriology, it is true to say that mankind’s fallen condition means humans come into existence affected by Original Sin, which is more than mortality even if it is less than automatic liability to eternal condemnation. Therefore, if all Catholics reject the idea of a sinful Mary with a corrupt human nature, they must logically all accept that she lived in that immaculate condition for a reason, and that that reason lies with God’s initiative, not hers.
There does not appear to be any justification for limiting or qualifying her immaculacy temporally if we do not do so in other ways. In other words, the mature Tradition does not leave us room to say “Mary was without any sin or sinfulness at all – except for the early part of her life.”
The following propositions I suggest are an ecumenical and orthodox statement of this doctrine.
The Blessed Virgin Mary was wholly without actual sin or sinfulness from the beginning to the end of her life on earth.
This was due to the grace of God in Christ and, later, her free co-operation.
This unique blessedness made her a fit life-spring and vessel for the Blessed One.
 Some Eastern Orthodox claim that the Eastern Fathers do not talk of inherited sin but inherited mortality. While these Fathers do not accept inherited guilt, they certainly do accept inherited sinfulness or corruption. Another objection put forward is that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception separates our Lady from the succession of Old Testament sanctity and breaks her link with her ancestor saints. The proper reply to this may be that her “preventative cleansing” and gracing were a reward for their faithfulness and an answer to their prayers for the complete redemption and restoration of the “virgin” Israel. It should not be forgotten that Eastern liturgical prayers on the Feast of the Conception of the Virgin call her immaculate. I am reminded of a conversation related to me by one of our priests, who discussed the issue with a Romanian Orthodox priest on December 8. Our priest concluded by saying that on that day he would celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of our Lady and that the next day his Romanian friend would celebrate the Feast of the Conception of our Immaculate Lady, so he didn’t see much difference!
 The Roman Catholic Church seems to have qualified its acceptance of Augustinianism by, for example, its statement in the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church (sections 404 & 405) that Original Sin is called so analogically and is not, strictly speaking, a personal fault.
Fr Matthew Kirby